When you start a diet, it’s tempting to ditch everything about your current eating routine and stock your kitchen up with diet foods. Before you do that, it’s important to learn the facts about diet foods and find out if they help you lose weight.
How Diet Foods Work
Diet foods that have hit the market in recent years are typically meant to mimic the flavor of popular, but unhealthy foods. They tend to have fewer calories, carbohydrates or sugar than the original foods. To try to recreate the flavor of full-calorie, full-fat foods, manufacturers may include sugar substitutes, artificial flavors and preservatives. For instance, diet beverages that contain very few or zero calories are often flavored with aspartame rather than sugar.
How Diet Foods Affect Weight Loss
Unfortunately, all of the tampering with flavors and adding of artificial ingredients could have a negative effect on your weight loss efforts. Diet foods may actually cause you to gain weight rather than lose it! Diet foods affect your weight loss in two ways—how they physically work on the body and the mind tricks that are at work when you hear the words “diet food”.
The human body is designed to preserve itself and get the calories it needs to run, and diet foods that are full of preservatives and artificial flavors run contrary to those goals. Your body can tell when something doesn’t taste the same as a full-fat food, and as a result, the body believes it’s being deprived of calories and nourishment. The more low-calorie or zero-calorie food and drink you consume, the more your body believes it needs to make up for that deficiency with full-calorie food.
The University of Texas performed a study comparing the effects of diet soda and regular soda on people over the course of eight years. The results were shocking: every time a participant drank a diet soda, they increased their risk of becoming overweight by 41%, compared to a 30% increase for those who drank regular soda. Eating a smaller amount of a full-calorie food makes you feel satisfied much more quickly than eating any amount of a diet food.
Eating diet food may also affect how you think about what you’re eating. Many studies have shown that people who are told that they’re eating diet food tend to eat a much larger amount than they do of the regular, full-calorie food. For most dieters, the result is that they eat more calories of the diet food than they do of the regular food. Since it’s diet food, you may overestimate the serving size of the food or feel entitled to eat more than you typically would.
If you’re looking to lose weight, processed diet foods aren’t the way to go. Choose the original diet foods—fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein as part of a healthy diet. Avoiding the artificial flavors in processed diet foods will not only help you lose weight, but will make you much healthier in the long run.